Belfast Telegraph

Co Down stately home ravaged by fire could rise from ashes as hotel

Marion Needham Russell in Mourne Park House before it was destroyed by fire
Marion Needham Russell in Mourne Park House before it was destroyed by fire
Ryan McAleer

By Ryan McAleer

The owner of a Co Down stately home destroyed by fire six years ago has relaunched a bid to convert the building into a luxury hotel.

The central block of Mourne Park House near Kilkeel was ravaged by flames in May 2013, reducing what had been a recently completed 10-year restoration programme to ruins.

At the time plans were being put in place to convert the 17-bedroom building into a boutique hotel.

The estate, which dates back to the 16th century, was the ancestral home of the earls of Kilmorey.

Mourne Park House
Mourne Park House

Marion Needham Russell, who descends from the earls, now owns Mourne Park House and the 140 acres of parklands around it.

She has now indicated her intentions to restart the hotel bid.

A pre-planning application notice has now been submitted to Newry, Mourne and Down Council, proposing changing the building's use from a listed private residence and outbuildings to a luxury hotel and spa.

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Works will include refurbishment and the construction of a new-build extension with the provision of associated car parking and facilities.

In a statement on the Mourne Park Estate website, the owners said: "Since the fire, we have done everything we can to preserve the structure of the building; removing, storing and shoring up where necessary.

"We are absolutely committed to seeing the restoration of Mourne Park once again and have open minds as to how this would be achieved.

"The rebuild is currently on hold until the right person or group comes forward to claim the opportunity."

Three floor levels in the main building collapsed in the wake of the fire, but three wings of the house were saved.

Architectural firm Mullarkey Pedersen has been recruited by the owners for the restoration project.

Mourne Park House before it was destroyed by fire
Mourne Park House before it was destroyed by fire

The company previously worked with Devenish chairman Owen Brennan on the renovation of his 18th century Dowth Hall stately home in Co Meath after the agri-food boss bought the 430-acre estate in 2013.

The firm was also involved in the renovation of the Necarne Estate in Co Fermanagh, as well as the restoration of St Columb's Cathedral and the Apprentice Boys' Memorial Hall in Derry.

A public meeting to air the new plans for Mourne Park Estate will be held in the Kilmorey Arms Hotel in Kilkeel next month.

The estate dates back to 1552, when Edward VI granted the lands to Sir Nicholas Bagnall, who founded the Kilmorey Family Estates.

The main family seat was in Shropshire, with Mourne Park used as a holiday home, primarily designed for hosting lavish entertainment and house parties for the visiting earl and well-heeled guests.

Its guest list down the years included Errol Flynn, the Queen Mother and General Patton.

Errol Flynn
Errol Flynn

Mourne Park House became the family's permanent residence in the 19th century. It was extensively rebuilt in 1806 with further extensions added in 1820, 1859 and 1920.

During the Second World War the estate became the pre-Normandy base for a tank regiment of the US Army.

The army huts and concrete roads laid down for the units remain, as do apple trees, said to have grown from the GIs' discarded cores.

Belfast Telegraph